After two decades of teaching Sydneysiders to cook a wide variety of seafood at home, the Sydney Seafood School celebrates its birthday with a swanky refurbishment and a who’s who programme of top Australian chefs. Words by Flora King, images by Greg Barton
Back in the dark ages of the late ’80s, when seafood delicacies such as fresh crab and mussels were as alien to the average Australian supermarket shopper as a three-headed brontosaurus, a teaching facility was born with an aim to educate Sydneysiders on how to cook good seafood at home. The idea was for everyday punters to be able to make use of those tasty lesser-known species, which – among the familiar breams and snappers of our waters – wound up in the nets of the NSW fishing fleets.

The school’s 20th anniversary program, which runs until February 2010, reads like a who’s who of Australian chefs, with maestros such as Justin North, Matt Moran, Guillaume Brahimi, Peter Gilmore, Christine Manfield and Peter Kuruvita all conducting classes.

Jump forward 20 years and times have changed. Culinary delights such as octopus, abalone, sashimi, pipis and sea snails are now readily available to amateur chefs and shoppers. Thanks in part to establishments like Sydney Seafood School, which teaches more than 12,000 pupils yearly, these kinds of slippery creatures aren’t nearly as intimidating to household cooks as they used to be.

Now regarded as one of Australia’s leading cooking schools, the Sydney Seafood School, housed in the iconic Sydney Fish Markets, has just re-opened after an extended closure for refurbishment, all building up to the celebration of its 20th anniversary. Having been successful in its initial mission of creating demand for lesser known varieties of seafood, the school now teaches a huge variety of innovative cooking classes – sushi & sashimi workshops by master sushi chef Hideo Dekura, a Thai street food class taught by Michelin-starred David Thompson and a seafood BBQ class to name a few.

In fact, the school’s 20th anniversary program, which runs until February 2010, reads like a who’s who of Australian chefs, with maestros such as Justin North, Matt Moran, Guillaume Brahimi, Peter Gilmore, Christine Manfield and Peter Kuruvita all conducting classes. And, while manager Roberta Muir knows that food is as much about visual appeal as it is about taste, the school has been newly decked out with a leather-lined auditorium, a Michael Purdy sandstone sculpture collection and custom-made stainless steel kitchens; in other words, a Michael McCann design make-over fit for a king.

AT was invited to lurk backstage during one of Matt Moran’s recent classes, and we were impressed with the spanking new facilities, the laidback and intimate nature of Matt’s instructional style, and by the sheer enthusiasm displayed by the class of amateurs eager to learn from one of the best.

So, happy 20th birthday Sydney Seafood School, and welcome back!